Sci-Fi Shorts: Lost In Space
Read the tale that won runner-up in the under 16 category in our Sci-Fi Shorts competition.
We have our winners for our inaugural Sci-Fi Shorts Competition! Every Friday between 6 October and 10 November we’ll be publishing each winning story here on this blog. Check our competition webpage for the schedule.
Once again, congratulations to all our winners and a huge thank you to everyone who took part!
Award ceremony will take place at 12:30 on Saturday 18 November at the National Space Centre, as part of the Literary Leicester sci-fi events.
This week, we bring you our runner-up for the <16 category, Lost In Space, by Giles Carey.
The judges felt the author delivered an original twist on a historic launch, in a story that bounced along with a great sense of pace.
Lost In Space
by Giles Carey
24 April 1958
Today is a very important day for me; in just a few hours our new Thor-Able rocket will be blasted into space. The rocket is fuelled and ready to fly, but just before the final test there was a problem, the rocket was overweight by more than 22kg. The reason why is still unknown, but is probably to do with a new part of the payload, so at the last minute we had to make some changes to the burn time and booster rockets.
He finished reading and slipped out of the room after he placed the notepad and pen into his desk drawer. His name was Sam Green; he was 30 and married with two children. He was nervous, and he made no attempt to hide it as he pulled a spotted handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his forehead with it. He stuffed it into his pocket.
“Good morning Sam, how is everything going?” The large man sitting in a chair in front of a large bank of computer screens asked him.
“Just as planned, sir”
“Good, very good, how about that weight problem on board the rocket?”
“All sorted, the rockets have been recalibrated to handle with the extra 20 odd kilograms.”
“Okay, oh, by the way, me and some of the other boys were going to go to the pub after the launch. Do you want to come?”
“Sure, I’ll bring my wallet.”
“No, the drinks are on me.”
Sam headed for the Command Centre, looking forward to going for a drink to toast the success of the launch. He had no doubt it would be successful – they had all worked so hard for so long, it couldn’t be anything else. Sam walked into the control room just to see the rocket countdown begin. This is the moment he had been waiting for. The countdown proceeded as planned, and the rocket launched at 10:00am precisely. Everything was fine until the amplifiers around the control room hissed into life.
“Help me,” came a feeble voice from the other side.
For a second the men and women all seemed to hold their breath, then uproar. People shouting, jabbing at keyboards and pieces of paper flying, everyone asking the same question – how. Then silence, with people’s eyes darting around for an answer. Slowly Sam’s arm raised up.
“I think I know what the extra weight it could be.” His voice trailed off as he walked to the nearest microphone.
“Hello, can you hear me?”
“Yes, who are you?”
“My name is Sam Green. Who are you?”
“My name is Jack Smith, I’m 12 years old and I don’t know how I got here, where am I.”
“Listen, son, I don’t want to scare you, but you’re in space.” Sam was starting to feel nervous because no one had spoken since the beginning of the conversation.
‘I need to know; do you have air?”
“Good. How much?”
“I don’t know.”
Sam turned around. “Listen everybody I know I’m not the boss but I have a plan. Is everyone okay with me taking charge?” The nods of approval made Sam’s heart jump for joy. “Right, I need someone to talk to my friend Jack, and then can we get the Russians on the phone? I need our best and brightest over by that table there, with the plans of the rocket and portable air supplies, plus the plans for the Russian’s rockets too.” Nobody moved. “Let’s go people,” Sam barked.
At the table Sam scanned through the schematics. “If we can get them to launch their rocket early, will it be possible to dock the two craft?”
“Yes, but this was supposed to be their first manned flight, plus they’ll have to make some major changes to their docking clamp.”
“Okay, all we can do is ask. Send them the plans.”
Sam walked over to the speaker and took a deep breath. “Can I ask the kid a question?”
“Sure.” She stood up and walked towards the water dispenser.
“Hello, it’s me, how is everything?”
“Good, thank you, but I want to go home now.”
“Okay, we’re working on getting you down from there.” Sam walked away as the woman came back and put on her headphones and started to talk.
“Sam, latest report for the Russians they have finish modifying their docking clamp and are prepared to do the rescue.”
“Good, very good, ask them to launch as soon as possible.’’
“10…9…8…7…6…5…4…3…2…1…blast off,” came the voice from the nearest speaker less than two hours later.
Sam never did get to meet Jack, even when the Russians got him back safely to Earth. He spent the next month answering all sorts of questions about how he managed to get into the rocket, where he got his oxygen supply from and lots of other things. He gave the best answers he could, but most people didn’t believe him.
The Russians denied he was ever there, still claiming that Gagarin’s flight, postponed when they had to repurpose his rocket to rescue the child, was the first manned orbit of the planet. Nobody argued – they all agreed that a line in a history book was enough reward for bring the boy back safely to earth.